Maine budget committee holds meeting
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Some members of the Maine Legislature's budget-writing committee say they were surprised by the projected funding shortfall at the Department of Health and Human Services, but the DHHS commissioner says lawmakers had plenty of warning.
The Appropriations Committee held a rare Sunday meeting to ask Commissioner Mary Mayhew about her department's financial problems.
But Gov. Paul LePage wasn't allowed to speak. Rebuffed, LePage left the room near the end of the session but not before telling members that Maine residents "are being played for patsies."
Mayhew told LePage on Friday that DHHS will run out of money to pay Medicaid providers in three weeks, before a new budget goes into effect. LePage then called on Democratic leaders to approve a budget so the state can meet its obligations.
Maine university tuition rates to be set
BANGOR, Maine (AP) - University of Maine System trustees are voting on a measure to freeze tuition rates for the upcoming school year at 2012 levels for in-state undergraduates.
Trustees are voting Monday at their meeting in Bangor on the system's operating budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. As part of the budget vote, trustees will set tuition rates.
Tuition was frozen for the 2012-2013 school year at the state's seven universities, the first time that had happened in 25 years. Trustees on Monday are voting on a proposal to keep them frozen.
Next year's operating budget is about $522 million, which is up about $1 million from this year.
The University of Maine System has seven universities and an annual enrollment of nearly 40,000 students.
No discipline for trooper whose gun discharged
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - There will be no punishment for a Maine state police lieutenant whose gun accidentally discharged during a training class.
Lt. Shaun Currie was adjusting his holster when the gun went off Wednesday morning during a computer training session in Augusta. An officer was hit in the back of the leg after the bullet ricocheted, but it didn't penetrate the officer's skin.
Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said the investigation concluded discipline was unnecessary. The outcome was first reported by the Bangor Daily News.
'Laboratory in a can' monitors red tide off Maine
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Red tide monitoring is going high-tech with a robotic "laboratory in a can."
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts deployed a garbage can-size canister in the waters off southern Maine last month to collect and transmit data about toxin-producing algae blooms, known as red tides, that appear in the Gulf of Maine each spring.
Inside the canister is a pint-size robotic biology lab that tests water samples for DNA and toxins, and transmits real-time data to shore by cellphone. Scientists say the apparatus will transform the way red tide outbreaks are monitored.
In bad years, red tide has closed hundreds of miles of clam flats for weeks at a time in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in losses for shellfish harvesters.
WINSLOW HOMER STUDIO
Winslow Homer studio tours to begin June 23
SCARBOROUGH, Maine (AP) - The Portland Museum of Art has announced the dates for its summer tours of the Winslow Homer studio in Scarborough.
The museum says it will offer tours twice daily on Mondays and Fridays from June 23 through Sept. 4. Tickets for museum members are now on sale, while tickets for the general public become available May 31.
The museum bought the building in 2006 and opened it to the public last September following a multi-million dollar renovation. The studio overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is where Homer lived from 1883 until his death in 1910 and where he produced some of this most notable work.
NH House to vote whether to allow 1 casino
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire's House is voting Wednesday whether to legalize one casino that probably would be built along the southern border with Massachusetts.
A special House committee voted 23-22 to recommend that the House kill a Senate bill to legalize a casino with up to 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games. Under House rules, the recommendation to kill the bill must be defeated to consider other options, including passing the bill. If the House decides to consider passing the bill, it may vote on 10 or more amendments to the bill.
Gov. Maggie Hassan has been lobbying hard for the bill's passage to make casino gambling another source of revenue for the state. Hassan says she supports legalizing only one casino, but critics argue more casinos would be legalized eventually.
NH Senate to vote on amended medical pot bill
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire could be on its way to joining 18 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing the medical use of marijuana by people with serious illness.
The Senate is set to vote on a heavily amended version of the House passed medical marijuana bill, which among other changes strikes a home grow provision advocates said was crucial to providing timely access for patients who have waited years to use marijuana legally.
The Senate version also removes PTSD from the list of approved conditions, decreases the number of dispensaries from five to four, and requires patients to have a state-issued ID card.
The changes were requested by Gov. Maggie Hassan, who supports medical use but wanted tighter regulations.
OPEN ROAD TOLLING
Open-road tolling to start at Hooksett tolls soon
HOOKSETT, N.H. (AP) - Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, drivers who use E-ZPass will be able to head through New Hampshire's Hooksett Tolls on Interstate 93 without stopping.
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation is getting ready to start open-road electronic tolling on Thursday.
Drivers using E-ZPass will be able to keep going at highway speeds along specially designated lanes. No stopping at the toll booths is needed.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of the new lands is scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m.
Construction on the open-road tolling started last year.
The New Hampshire Turnpike along Interstate 95 has open-road tolling at its tolls in Hampton.
Manchester continues to grapple with new refugees
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - 1 of the least diverse states in the country is seeing an increasing number of refugees.
The number of immigrants in New Hampshire has grown by 36% in the last decade. That's outpaces that national rate by 6%.
Refugees make up only a fraction of the population in the state's largest city. But Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas drew national attention in November 2011 when he asked the State Department to stop resettling refugees in the city.
Critics say programs can focus only on new arrivals who can fall through the cracks if they don't transition immediately. But refugee advocates say fears about mounting costs for cities ignore their positive contributions.
Gatsas says he still believes Manchester could benefit from a break in arriving refugees.
NH Senate to vote on bill to push back last call
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Granite State bar patrons hoping to join neighboring states in being able to belly-up to the bar in the wee hours for a final round could see some daylight as the Senate will vote on a bill this week to push back last call from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.
If the Senate passes its version of the bill, local governing bodies for New Hampshire's cities and towns would need to opt into the law change by passing an ordinance allowing bars in their municipality to serve alcohol later.
That might be an easy sell in larger cities like Manchester and Nashua, but it could also lead to some heated debate at town meeting in some of the state's smaller communities.
PROUTY CANCER FUNDRAISER
32nd annual NH fundraiser sets $2.75 million goal
HANOVER, N.H. (AP) - Organizers of New Hampshire's annual Prouty fundraiser for cancer research and treatment have set a $2.75 million goal for this year's 2-day event.
The Prouty, which takes place July 12 and 13 in Hanover, has raised more than $17 million in the past 31 years.
It features 100- and 200-mile bike races, multiple walk routes and rowing events on the Connecticut River. This year, golf at the Hanover Country Club is among the events.
The Prouty was started in 1982 by four nurses to honor a patient, Audrey Prouty, who died that year of ovarian cancer. The nurses raised $4,000 in pledges by biking across the White Mountains and started a New Hampshire tradition.
SUPERIOR COURT JUSTICE-FELLOWSHIP
NH Superior Court chief justice gets fellowship
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire's Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau is the 2013 recipient of a fellowship awarded annually by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
The Caroline L. Gross Fellowship was established in memory of the late House majority leader to honor people dedicated to public service.
The fellowship allows Nadeau to attend a three-week seminar for state and local officials at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Nadeau was appointed chief justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court in 2011 after serving as associate justice for several years. Her other professional experience includes Office of the Governor, where she served as legal counsel to former Gov. Stephen Merrill, and as an assistant attorney general in the homicide division.
ARTS AND CULTURE-NH
Arts destinations added to northern NH itineraries
LANCASTER, N.H. (AP) - An organization that promotes northern New Hampshire activities has added a new arts and culture itinerary to its website.
The New Hampshire Grand Itinerary takes visitors to summer theater in Whitefield, Weeks State Park in Lancaster, an arts center in Colebrook, a museum in Stewartstown, arts and historic centers in Berlin, an opera house in Gorham, and others.
The itinerary can be found on http://www.nhgrand.com.
BOAT RAMP CLOSURE
Newfound Lake boat ramp closing for repairs
BRISTOL, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire Fish and Game officials are closing the Newfound Lake boat access ramp at Wellington State Park after Memorial Day weekend for repairs.
Officials plan to replace a missing piling and reset other posts so that a floatable dock can be installed.
The work is scheduled from May 28 through May 31.
A portion of the parking lot will be lost to equipment moving into place this coming week, but the ramp will be open for the holiday weekend.
The boat ramp was built in 1996. The original concrete ramp was replaced by a newer design last year, but ice movement displaced 1 of the pilings over the winter.
AID IN DYING
Shumlin to sign aid-in-dying bill
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - A 10-year effort by advocates to bring an aid-in-dying law to Vermont is about to be punctuated with Gov. Peter Shumlin's signing of the bill.
Shumlin is set to sign the legislation, which takes effect immediately, into law on Monday afternoon, less than a week after the Vermont House gave it final passage.
Several Vermont hospitals say it will take them at least several weeks to set up internal procedures for handling any terminally ill patients who want to take advantage of the opportunity to have a doctor prescribe them lethal medication.
Dick Waters, president of Patient Choices-Vermont, which supported the legislation, says he understands it will take some time for the hospitals to set up programs, and that his group is committed to helping in that effort.
Passenger killed in northern Vermont accident
LYNDON, Vt. (AP) - A passenger has been killed in a car accident in northern Vermont after the driver lost control while swerving to avoid a small animal that was crossing the road.
Vermont State Police say 85-year-old Eleanor Machell of Lyndonville was killed Saturday afternoon after a car driven by 76-year-old Gerda Blasczyk of St. Johnsbury went off Route 122 in Lyndon and flipped over, coming to a rest upside down.
Machell, who was wearing a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Auditor praises Vt. action on tax districts
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont State Auditor Doug Hoffer is praising lawmakers for passing legislation to clean up glitches in the state's so-called tax increment financing program.
Tax increment financing is a public financing method that provides communities with a means to fund redevelopment and infrastructure improvements. A community is allowed to borrow money against the future growth in property tax revenue within a designated TIF district that is made possible by the improvements.
Last year, then-Auditor Tom Salmon issued a report saying that some cities and towns had not handled their TIF districts properly and therefore owed money to the state education fund - a finding disputed by the municipalities.
Hoffer says the bill passed by lawmakers should clear up ambiguities in the law that likely contributed to the problems.
Vt. hard cider company takes aim at coffee roaster
RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) - A Vermont company that makes hard cider is suing another Vermont company that roasts coffee for trademark infringement over the use of the word "woodchuck."
Vermont Hard Cider Co. filed a complaint against Woodchuck Coffee Roasters in U.S. District Court last week.
The Middlebury company says it's spent substantial money building brand awareness for its Woodchuck Hard Cider since 1991.
It says Woodchuck Coffee Roasters' coffee logo is strikingly similar to its hard cider label, with an oval logo with a woodchuck sitting on its haunches.
A co-owner of the coffee company tells the Rutland Herald that his company's name and logo were never intended to imitate the better-known cider company.
The South Burlington company was incorporated in 2011.
Former upscale Killington restaurant auctioned
KILLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - A former restaurant once considered the Killington area's most upscale eatery has a new owner.
Hemingway's Restaurant was sold at a foreclosure auction Friday for $55,000 to an undisclosed buyer.
The Rutland Herald reported that auctioneer Thomas Hirchak began the bidding at $200,000, with four bidders present and a fifth on the phone.
But the opening bid eventually came in at just $25,000 before the price went up to the winning price of $55,000.
Hemingway's, a four-star restaurant named after writer Ernest Hemingway, was known for its new American cuisine with a French and Italian flair, and its extensive wine collection.
After nearly 30 years in business, owners Ted and Linda Fondulas closed the restaurant two years ago. The mortgage holder foreclosed on the property in February.
Marsalis speaks, plays at UVM commencement
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - More than 3,000 University of Vermont students have received degrees at the school's 211th graduation ceremony.
Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis was the commencement speaker at Sunday's outdoor ceremony on the campus at the Burlington school. Following his talk, Marsalis picked up his trumpet and played "When the Saints Going Marching In" with the crowd clapping in time.
In all, more than 3,250 graduates received bachelor's, master's, doctoral and medical doctor degrees. Graduates came from 44 states and 17 countries.
Marsalis and four other people received honorary degrees.
Vt. Fish & Wildlife to hold last 2 deer hearings
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is preparing to hold its last two deer hearings that will help set regulations for this fall's hunts.
On Tuesday, a hearing will be held in Lyndonville. The final hearing will be June 5 in Manchester.
Three earlier hearings were held in Springfield, Montpelier and St Albans.
The hearings are an opportunity to get hunter input about Vermont's comprehensive deer management plan.
They will also cover last year's deer harvest results and discuss the severity of the winter on the deer herd.
It will also allow the public to comment on the department's recommendation for the number of antlerless permits to be issued for muzzleloader and archery seasons and youth hunting weekend.
Vt.'s free fishing day is June 8
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermonters will have a chance to fish for free next month in the state's lakes and streams.
June 8 is free fishing day.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department says anglers can try for brook, brown or rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, walleye, and northern pike as well as other several other species without a fishing license.
The department says Vermont has 284 lakes and over 7,000 miles of clear streams in which to fish.
The Grand Isle Fishing Festival will be held on the same day, offering free fishing instruction to young anglers.
Gabel named Vt. state court administrator
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The Vermont Supreme Court has announced that Patricia Gabel will become the next state court administrator.
The appointment takes effect on July 27.
Gabel is now serving as general counsel to the Supreme Court and Vermont's deputy state court administrator.
She will replace Bob Greemore, who is retiring after more than 30 years as an administrator in the Vermont court system.
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